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We need some help working on our relationship(25 Posts)
Dh and I are in a bad place. Last year the kids were finally all at school, I went back to work so that we had two incomes to make up lost ground over the time I was a SAHM and we were really looking forward to coming out of the baby/toddler phase and moving on to the next phase of our lives.
However, DH's career took a nose-dive and he pretty much crashed and burned. We had to take crisis action and he stepped way down the career ladder leaving me as the major wage earner. He was also in a bad way emotionally and physically. It was the right decision but not an easy one.
Roll forward a year and we are in a bad way. The good news is that he has bounced back and is his old self again. The bad news is that the year has left us both uncommunicative and angry. I am angry and resentful and mistrustful, he feels powerless and hostile and unsupported. I see that I do all the hard work while he does dreams and schemes, he sees exciting new possibilities that I shut down. I think he ignores the family and lives in his social media alternate reality, he feels I discount the additional work he does round the house and supporting the kids. We both are as bad as each other - there is no kindness or laughter.
So how do we work on this? I am so weary of being my own Marriage Guidance counsellor and I just can't do it any more. Is Relate the only option? Ideally I'd like a nice set of workbooks that we can sit round a kitchen table and fill out and magically start talking again but I can't find anything like that!
Advice to LTB will be ignored. Anyone with experience of hauling their relationship back from the brink and can provide wisdom, perspective or practical advice will be greeted with weeping and much gratitude.
Relate isn't the only option but it sounds as though you are at the stage where couples counselling is necessary. The important thing to establish, however, is whether both of you accept there's a problem, are willing to engage fully in a counselling process and are both equally prepared to make any changes recommended.
I think we both are - its trying to find who and when and juggling kids and childcare to make sure we can go. And finding the cash to fund it. Which we don't have.
But I can't see any other way.
In the past, we would have talked and tussled it back and forth but it usually me who would try to get us to a point of agreement to move things on. And I just don't have the energy or appetite or creativity for that at the moment, so paying for counselling seems the necessary next step.
IF Relate isn't the only option, what else is there? I have found a list of local people via BACP but it feels a bit random to select one when I have no idea what kind of counsellor we need. The only other organisation I found was Catholic so that's out.
Personal recommendation is probably better than random but, if you do choose one at random, you can do so on a probationary basis.
I think you should lay off talking about 'the problem' for a while. Yes you can have couples counselling but you seem pretty smart and seem to want to sort it out for your self. You say you are talked out.
I think you need to find something fun or distracting that you can do together without the kids. Think about what you like doing and what he likes doing. Or find something that you could do together, which may be involve something ridiculous such as line dancing or learning ballroom dancing or going on a curry making day or Go Carting. Something that will make you both laugh but does not involve a great deal of thinking. So that you are amongst other people but basically not having to talk to one another but you are engaged in some thing together that interests you both. You can then talk about it afterwards.
You loved this man once and presumably he once found you fascinating. It has taken you a long time to get to this miserable stage so you can't really expect it to be fixed over night.
Take a step at a time.
Be nice! When he does something that literally makes you feel like nutting him, take a deep breath and keep saying to your self ' I am breathing in ' I am breathing ' out because I am a nice person. Keep doing it, locked in the toilet if necessary) until you stop feeling so mad. ( It is Mindfullness) Shouting and feeling angry is no good for your body. It is certainly not good for your relationship.
Get out into the fresh air and walk as much as possible, with or without him as being outside lifts your spirits.
Think about your DHs good points. Imagine him not being there. How would you feel about him then.
My friends husband suddenly died when out running. Her last words to him were ' can you clear up the mess you have made in the kitchen' She really regrets those words now.
If you are nice and kind, both to your DH and yourself I am sure things will change.
So to recap. Try and do things together where you have a laugh. Be very kind to yourself and him and concentrate on your husbands good points. See how that goes. Don't expect your relationship to change over night and plan a plan to recapture the spark.
Best of luck.
Thank you holeinmyheart - I am really grateful for the time you have taken to post so thoughtfully.
I fully concur that we need to spend time together and not sat glaring at each other over a pint. Part of our problem is that we have allowed "us" time to slip - we used to get out at least once a month and I think we have been out once in the last year. Fail on both our parts.
I will talk to him about being nice. My mother is a Quaker and she talks about actions needing to come from a place of love. Neither of us are acting from love at the moment. He did something really petulant last night which served to escalate the tension and when I called him on it, he just got defensive. Somehow, we both have to let go of our own ego and begin to act more mindfully - even if we have to fake it to make it for a while.
Yes - if he went under a bus this afternoon, it would be awful that our last conversation was so vile.
how did it get to this stage? Has it been a slow process of breakdown in the relationship?
I think it has been a long slow decline. We have been through the whole very-small-kids stage which was bumpy - we were tired and DD2 was a tough baby and I had PND - but we bounced back OK. We were actually in quite a good place last summer - we had a wonderful family holiday, reconnected as parents and as friends and came back fired up for my new job and having some more cash.
Then it all turned to crap, basically.
I have a deep need for financial security so it rocked me when the money vanished. DH says that we are still doing fine - and we are OK on a day to day basis - but I worry much more than him about the lack of savings or pension. He is such an ideas person - whereas I am the practical type. He does visionary leadership, I do operational probity. When we work together, we are ace. When we work oppositionally, its a nightmare.
We have no shared plan at the moment - and I am sure that is part of the problem. We have no direction, no aspirations. So we turn inwards on each other rather than looking outwards to what we can achieve.
Yikes- I am using you as councellors now. That was not the idea.
I think I am furious with him for not acknowledging that I held it all together last year, that it took a massive toll on me. It could have been catastrophic for him but it wasn't. I am holding him hostage for a lack of gratitude.
That is bad, isn't it. That is a bad place to be for us both.
You are at least acknowledging yourself in these problems which is probably more than most couples.
I'd just say pick your battles, toast crumbs isn't a major one if you get my drift. Set up a pension or savings account and put in the minimum you can monthly out of your own wages. Not in case of a split but for the future. You do need to have some fun in your life and if frittering away cash on a weekly/fortnightly or monthly basis just for the two of you to enjoy helps then do it. It'll recharge both your batteries, open the pair of you up to more discussions and hopefully make you (both) realise how much you mean to each other. You will get there but you need to wipe the slate clean over past misdemeanours. You lost your role as a lover (in your head) when you were caring for all the family and him too.
We do do fun things but usually with the kids. I am not scrooge-like _ i don't sweat about the odd treat. Its the longer term picture that keeps me awake at night but I don't hold our daily life hostage to that.
I think I feel let down that he doesn't take my worries or fears seriously - he can be a bit ostrich - he'll put his head down and hope that everything will come out in the wash. He hates conflict of any kind.
But I think the key is for us both to step away from thinking "But what about MEEEEE" and start thinking about US. How I am going to get that to take root, I have no idea.
If you want to work through it in the privacy of your own home with exercises etc then i really recommend the marriage course dvd. Its from the same people as the alpha course but really not very christian at all. I think there are 7 one hour talks, each on a different subject, with breaks to do exercises and discuss stuff. You might be able to borrow one from the library with some luck, or even a church.
It's just a thought but if you can't stop focusing on 'MEEE' or start thinking about 'us', how about focusing on the behaviour you are displaying to your DCs? How about making some positive changes for 'them'? People often say they are staying together 'for the kids' - and you've already said that LTB is off the table, possibly with that in mind. However it's fairly well accepted that whether parents are together or apart it does not have as big an impact on DCs' wellbeing as if they are subjected to an environment where parents are hostile to each other or clearly unhappy.
So if anyone's struggling to find a point of commonality or motivation to take this seriously, do it for the DCs.
Me and DP were in a bad place earlier this year - I certainly wouldn't have referred to him as DP then, more likely STBX - and going to counselling sessions together was not an easy option for us at that point. But we did need desperately to change our communication. I was having my own therapy sessions, and my therapist recommended Harville Hendrix as an author - he does books and workbooks. We bought the one I linked to, and read it independently. We also sat down twice a week to talk.
I think reading the book helped us both, even though we didn't work through it or even finish reading it. It gave us enough of a framework to build our own strategies to talk through our problems, and to properly listen to the other person. It wasn't easy, but it was what we needed to do, and it's helped enormously. It worked because we both really wanted it to, and we both made a huge effort.
The "thinking about us" instead of me came about as we communicated better. We both knew the person we had fallen in love with was still there, we just needed to talk to them again instead of the bundle of reactions that showed up on the surface as a result of all the crap that 3 DC, money worries and ill parents caused. We both had to break some habits and try new patterns of thinking. We also learned to better understand the other person's habits and coping strategies, and see some of them as that rather than "things done deliberately just to annoy me".
So, if you are after a book to start the process that one might work - and if it doesn't, there are plenty of other authors who may have a more suitable style for you. But at the root of it, I think you need to find a way to re establish communication. Cogito's first post is spot on: whether you use a counselor or not, you both have to commit to this process.
You say that your husband is more visionary than practical and that he seemed to change mood when his career took a nosedive.
I think that with you being a SAHM and him being a career person, there were your different identities and when his career faltered, I expect he suffered an identity and self worth crisis in addition to guilt about not being able to fulfill the family role he was used to. I know that you were both working.
All this must be very frustrating for you because your practical workload and worry levels will have been very much increased just at the time your DH goes through his crisis, especially as he doesn't have the skills to support you with the practical stuff. Extremely frustrating for you as you can't afford the time worrying about the visionary problems when there is emergency practical stuff to do.
At the same time, it must be difficult for him to see his perceived contribution to the family reduced. He may very well feel a bit of a failure. Might be why he has retreated to the social media.
Is it possible to do joint practical work and share the visionary plans as well? i.e. find inclusive and positive routes forward.
Thank you all for really helpful and insightful posts. I am so grateful
and a little weepy
redexpat and marmite - thank you for those tips. I shall purchase a book - that always seems to help.
"he suffered an identity and self worth crisis in addition to guilt about not being able to fulfill the family role he was used to"
"as he doesn't have the skills to support you with the practical stuff"
You are spot on. And because I am practical, I get all "Enough with the navel-gazing guilt, snap out of it!" And get angry, cos to my mind, he can chuffing acquire the skills, he is choosing not to.
I have forgotten that the reason that I fell for him was his passion and enthusiasm and interest in stuff. He broadened my horizons - and I suspect he still would if we ever talked about anything.
Over the weekend, we finally sorted out a room in our house that had been repainted years ago and we had never done the finishing touches. Although we took different jobs and did them separately, it was a great feeling to have achieved something as a team. I could feel a more positive mood in the room.
We did have a couple of conversations, one dreadful and one more helpful. DH said this morning "I have missed you, you know". So even though the conversations were painful and teary, he seemed to find the fledgling reconnection very useful.
Cogito we are both acutely aware of the kids, but actually, I think we are both motivated to sort this out for us. I want a relationship with him after the kids have gone. I don't think I could stay together just for the sake of the kids tbh - but we are nowhere near that point. This should be salvageable - and the knowledge, that if we don't attempt to salvage now then we could slide towards the separation point, is motivation enough for both of us.
he suffered an identity and self worth crisis in addition to guilt about not being able to fulfill the family role he was used to
I speak from personal experience in this sentence. I went from having a career and providing half the money to being a SAHD while DW works. Luckily, I am practical enough, but it still feels a bit funny and some men can be a bit judgy about it. Women are not IME.
I can see that but I always was the major wage-earner pre-kids. He had just job-changed when DD1 arrived and he was dead keen on the new work and very ambitious. So we both agreed I would SAHM while he focused on building new career. But he really struggled with the burden of being the solo-bread winner and I think that contributed to the crash on some level.
He loves having a low-key role and relishes the freedom it gives him to explore and think and write. All good stuff. However, I resent that he just transferred that responsibility to my shoulders without a backward glance - it was a bit "Its too tough me for me but you are good at work, you do it". I am sure that is not how it was for him but I have got a bit locked into that narrative and its made me very bitter.
It needs to be a shared burden somehow - that's what we need to get to. If I have to be the major-wage earner, then how can we make the other stuff work to help support me in role. That's the sort of stuff we have to work on, I think.
He does beat himself up about not being an Alpha-male - his brother is and earns the equivalent of 10 years of our household income in 1 year. Whilst DH wouldn't and couldn't do that kind of work, the comparisons smart, I think. But he doesn't lose sleep over our reduced circumstances the way I do.
"I resent that he just transferred that responsibility to my shoulders without a backward glance "
Have you said this to him, or words to that effect, but made it clear to him?
He needs to know, that your major issue (by the sounds of it) is not that you shouldered the responsibilties, but he didn't acknowledge that you did.
We have been through a very similar experience by the sounds of it, but mine was a physical health issue that deteriorated very quickly so was very stressful, for me, giving up my career, but also for DH as he had to find employment swiftly from being a SAHP. I am aware that he reduced my stress enormously by doing this, and without a single grumble which he would have been entitled to - not the having to find work but the changes imposed on him. I am grateful to him and made sure I have told him so - not being saying "I am grateful" but more along the lines of, "it's made the situation easier for me to accept knowing you found a job so quickly and one less thing to worry about" etc, and telling him I love him.
It's hard to adapt, particularly if you are a worrier like me, I hope you re connect.
Gah, meant to say, I don't think you are unreasonable in wanting your role acknowledged, you have probably helped him enormously by doing so. It's natural to feel resentful when your situation changes, particularly from circumstances outside your control, but your contribution to easing the stress should be acknowledged.
I hope this is useful and not just projection!
YesIDid - you are right - I am grumpy that I picked up the pieces and feel that was never valued - or that there is no recognition that this has been forced upon me rather than being a mutually agreed strategic move.
Of course, life happens and being a couple means that the stresses get shared - that was in my vows. Its the being-taken-for-granted that sticks in my craw - and this thread has made me realise I need to get over that.
This is a really good book - can't recommend it enough -:
I'm sure you are motivated to sort out the relationship for yourselves, which is as it should be. But if you're struggling to be civil to each other, remembering that your children are witnessing the hostility/unhappiness and resolving to correct that might give you the motivation to bury the hatchet and start sorting it out rather than nothing much positive happening. The example I would use is when someone starts an exercise regime. It is well-documented that those who exercise with a partner are more likely to stick to the programme. The motivation of not letting someone else down is often more powerful than the motivation to get fit in isolation.
I can recommend going on a Mindfulness course. When I went to the first session ( I referred myself) I thought this stuff is NEVER going to make any difference to me. I fell asleep in the first weeks practice and felt embarrassed in case I snored and worse, farted.
I stuck the 8 weeks out because, in the pack they gave us were many comments from participants saying that they thought it was useless at first and they stuck it out. So I soldered on.
Then amazingly it started to impact on my life. I think it is great for stress or anger. The sort of anger you get when you think life isn't fair, people are mean, you think others are more fortunate than you etc etc.
I feel like a bit of an evangelist about it now, sorry ! Some of my lovely group now meet up once a month, meditate and then go to the pub. I certainly did not expect to make more friends, so that was a bonus as well.
I don't know how it works but if you feel resentment it will help you deal with it.
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